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NIL: The Three Letters That Have Shifted College Sports Forever

SU's Josh Black and Sean Tucker stand beside each other pregame.
Syracuse defensive end Josh Black (right) has been one of the most vocal supporters of NIL on the football team. Black engaged in multiple name, image, and likeness deals prior to this season.

NCAA athletes are making money in ways they never could have before. On the national scene, and in Syracuse, young men and women are expanding their brand through name, image, and likeness deals. WAER's Ian Unsworth explains more.

On July 1st, 2021, the world of college sports changed forever. After pressure from Congress, the Supreme Court and multiple states, the NCAA passed NIL legislation. Standing for Name, Image and Likeness, the new rules allow college athletes to earn money from ventures that involve their profile as athletes. Athletes can reap the benefits of anything from brand deals to YouTube channels, customized apparel to camp appearances; this is uncharted territory (the possibilities are almost endless), but something that provides a real boost to the world of college sports.

Fair compensation for college athletes first became a real issue in 2009, when Ed O’Bannon, a former UCLA basketball player, sued EA Sports and the NCAA for the use of his likeness in a video game. O’Bannon’s suit became a national issue, going all the way to the Supreme Court, and other players followed with their own lawsuits. Enough pressure compiled on the governing body of college sports that the NCAA allowed college athletes to earn extra money for academic reasons in 2019, and then fully passed NIL legislation in 2021.

There have been many interesting consequences of the new rules. According to Syracuse University professor of Sport Management Dave Meluni, “[finding endorsements] is all about engagement.” The players with the largest followings on social media are the ones getting the largest payouts. Top collegiate quarterback Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma has over 375,000 followers on Instagram, and was recently awarded the choice of two brand new cars.

In Syracuse, numerous football players are taking advantage of the opportunities as well. SU wide receiver Taj Harris recently dropped his own line of custom clothing, and defensive lineman Josh Black has multiple brand deals. Black said that early on, when NIL was first passed, brands were trying to take advantage of football players that were naïve, attempting to sign them for as little compensation as possible. However, Syracuse has partnered a program called INFLNCR (pronounced “influencer”), which allows athletes to take professional images and use them for their own benefit, and search for fair endorsement opportunities, all through an app. Black also noted the recruiting possibilities of NIL could lead high schoolers to choose colleges that provide more money-making opportunities, but believes “it’ll all even out in the end.”

Black, Harris and the Orange take on Liberty on Friday at 8 PM. GZA Countdown to Kickoff begins at 7:30 on WAER.